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VIA Rail

crs1026

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Even a swapped line is a compromise. The Lakeshore is so much more populated. That makes it so much more challenging to do straightening. It means a lot more grade separations eventually. And all kinds of other costs and restrictions.

The past investment in grade separations is one of the reasons why I think the Kingston line is under-appreciated. More of the main roads are already grade separated. Bridging the farmers' crossings and concession roads does not imply large overpasses - many of the bridges over the TGV line are remarkably modest.

Some curves may have to be left alone, but they are already at 80-90 mph, and if they can be further banked once freight is shifted, they may not need straightening so long as we are comparing options for the HFR level speed and performance paradigm. Even accepting your premise that the line may not be adaptable to anything further, at base case we would have Kingston at 100 mph versus Havelock more frequently at 80.

The Kingston bypass route would require 50 km's or so of new line. That expense could be a rough-in of a HSR level segment. Or, it could be similar to the standard that VIA projects for the Havelock line. It would amount to 50 kms of new, plus 30 kms of rebuild Portland-Smiths Falls, versus 150kms of raw unimproved rebuild (Perth to Havelock) plus 150ish kms of simpler rebuild (West of Havelock). That differential may be closer in cost than we think. Run time to Ottawa would be equivalent with a faster run directly to Montreal. More trains run per day, I recognize, but ridership would be higher on the Montreal-Toronto leg.

(I'm still confused about HFR's best time Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. If only one route is used, Toronto-Ottawa 3:15 + dwell in Ottawa + 1:33 Ottawa-Montreal is more than 4:45 - it approaches the current 5:04)

Let's be honest here. Presuming HFR is built on the Havelock sub, the most obvious plan going forward is progressive upgrading of that corridor to Class 7 (125 mph) and Class 8 (160 mph). Building a whole new corridor to Kingston in addition to this would be insanely expensive. A better solution would be upgrading the Brockville sub and working to do the same with the track from Smiths Falls to Ottawa to enable traffic from Kingston to access the higher speed corridor.

Are we discussing a plan to achieve HFR, and live with it until economics favour a HSR quality new build....or are we picking the future route for that new build and using it in the interim for HFR?

I can't see the Havelock route as the best candidate to achieve even Class 7. If that's what you are proposing, and if the Kingston route is not critical to the business case, then I would still argue that it must be better to put VIA on the CP line today, and force CP onto CN. (putting freight on the Havelock would be utterly uneconomic and non-operable). That would be more expensive than the base HFR plan, because CP's freight line has much higher market value than the Havelock line. But much less would be needed to upgrade the CP line to the same performance spec as VIA can buy initially on the Havelock route, with future use of the line for HSR assured. More money now, perhaps, but the net present value might be as good or better.

I'm guessing that west of Smiths Falls, the Class 7 upgrade you envision is further away than we think. Assume HFR initially does a raw rebuild Havelock to Perth, Class 6 at best. Assume that with all possible banking, VIA achieves its projected trip timing. At that point, upgrading Smiths Falls - Ottawa-Montreal from 100 mph to 125 mph is probably less money overall than upgrading the Havelock from Class 6 to anything higher. Same gain in time, likely similar ridership boost. So that project would have a better business case than improving the line west of Perth.

VIA's business case is likely the least possible cost alternative to generate a positive return. It just doesn't have much up side beyond that. I'm looking for more up side, and I think the alternatives may not prove more expensive particularly over the longer term. That may be irrelevant for the initial investors, but it's better public policy.

- Paul
 

Allandale25

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Let's compare both approaches and assume that HFR means 15 frequencies (i.e. round-trips) per day on all primary markets (i.e. MTRL-OTTW, MTRL-TRTO and OTTW-TRTO), as suggested by this graphic released by the Globe and Mail:

View attachment 288433
Source: Globe and Mail (2019)


In the case of operating one single HFR route, operating 15 MTRL-OTTW-TRTO round trips to serve the end-to-end markets has virtually the same train-mileage as the Status Quo (i.e. 6 round trips each MTRL-OTTW and MTRL-TRTO and 10 round-trips OTTW-TRTO). Conversely, operating 15 round trips each on all sides of the triangle exactly doubles your daily train mileage. Granted, you would still have to operate some Local services with the "single HFR corridor" approach, but even if you operated all the current Lakeshore frequencies (i.e. in addition to the actual HFR services), your train-mileage would still be slightly lower than with the "HFR on all sides of the triangle" approach:

View attachment 288438


Maybe the above explains why I have such a hard time imagining how HFR over the Kingston Sub could possibly be more viable than over the Havelock Sub (and how any such proposal could be made acceptable to CN)... ;)

What's the difference between HFR(A) and (B)?
 

roger1818

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The greenwashing argument relies on the fact that it blends in fossil fuels and usually is sourced from agricultural output that used significant fossil fuel inputs to grow. Using carbon stored in a plant is not an issue. You and I literally do that everyday. It's releasing the carbon stored up underground that is the issue. Were we to come up with 100% biofuel that was somehow sourced only from farming that used electrified machinery it wouldn't be as much of a greenwashing argument. And to that end, sectors like aviation are working on sourcing such fuels. Would work for VIA's diesel trains, if there really is such concern. That said, I think the concern is ridiculously overblown in the context of the alternative which is driving and flying. Even a diesel train sips fuel at something like 0.5 - 1 L/100 pax-km. Amtrak at low occupancy and with lots of very old trains is over 71 pmpg (3.3 L/100 pax-km) network wide. Absent an electric train that is powered by almost 100% non-emitting electricity, diesel trains are some of the most efficient transportation systems we have.

Got to love how you completely ignore my arguments against biofuels, come up with one of your own and dismiss your own argument as irrelevant with a general one day in the future we might have a solution for it. It doesn't matter when the carbon was removed from the atmosphere but that we are putting copious quantities of CO2 back into the atmosphere. Were we to not burn the plant matter, and compost it instead, the carbon would be remain locked up in the ground for a very long time.

As for the argument that "using carbon stored in a plant is not an issue" because we all do it every day, there is a huge difference in magnitude. "The average human exhales about 2.3 pounds [1.04 kg] of carbon dioxide on an average day " As a comparison, a VIA Rail train from Toronto to Montreal generates 14.76 kg of CO2 per seat. That means that the train (per passenger) is emitting significantly more CO2 per passenger than the people who are ridding on it are exhaling, and that is using one of the most efficient modes of transport.

It's really important to put the environmental and economic benefits in their proper context. Electrification early on will most likely come at the cost of network expansion which means more folks driving and flying.

If you read what you quoted me saying, I said, " I wouldn't want an argument of electrifying HFR to get in the way of its construction as there are environmental benefits of reducing the number of cars on the road"

Moving new ridership onto the rail network does a lot more for the environment than electrification does. Consider someone driving a reasonable efficient vehicle doing say 7 L/100km. Compare that to a train doing about 1 L/100km. Even with double occupancy in the car, the train would be about 3.5x more fuel efficient. Those passengers using the train save 3.5x more fuel than electrifying their train would.

Can you provide references to those figures? Also you can't compare liters of diesel to liters of gasoline as diesel is more energy dense and produces more CO2 (and other pollutants) per liter (3.00715 Kg of CO2 equivalent per Liter of diesel No. 2. vs. 2.500 Kg of CO2 equivalent per Liter of gasoline).

Cost wise, electrification would also be a poor proposition early on. A project built on borrowed money requires their investment to pay off. And the savings from not having diesel operations is going to a very long time to return the capital invested. On the other hand, investing that same capital in network expansion or enabling higher speeds attracts new passengers and boosts revenue.

I suspect the Canadian government will pay for electrification using stimulus money and will have the CIB fund the remainder of HFR, but that is just a guess.

Electrification is important. But it should be saved for a logical time, once the corridor is finished building. I would argue that electrification is better suited to a project in the 2040s when the corridor is finished Quebec City to Windsor, and the now 15+ yr old Chargers can be parted out economically, Demand will be up and VIA will probably be at semi-hourly service through the full day. At that point with costs rising from increasing demand and no ability to add customers through expansion, the obvious investment is electrification both to speed up the train (to add frequency) and to reduce operating costs. And in 15-20 years with cars having been substantially electrified, VIA will probably be at a point where they need electrification to compete with EVs.

HFR will require the purchase new trainsets and the Chargers purchased for the new fleet can be used on existing routes. One could have a counter argument that if we are planning to electrify VIA anyway, why not do it before cars have been substantially electrified and not throw away the HFR Chargers half way through their lifecycle.

A corollary is that in 20 year battery tech may also be substantially developed that we won't need to spend money on installing catenary across the entire length of the corridor. So there might be opportunities for savings.

If you use the argument that we shouldn't do it now because the technology might be better in the future might be better, you will never do anything. The timeline for battery powered intercity trains being feasible is uncertain at the moment.
 

roger1818

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The past investment in grade separations is one of the reasons why I think the Kingston line is under-appreciated. More of the main roads are already grade separated. Bridging the farmers' crossings and concession roads does not imply large overpasses - many of the bridges over the TGV line are remarkably modest.

So you feel it is important for VIA to compromise operational costs in the long run to save on initial capital costs?

The Kingston bypass route would require 50 km's or so of new line. That expense could be a rough-in of a HSR level segment. Or, it could be similar to the standard that VIA projects for the Havelock line. It would amount to 50 kms of new, plus 30 kms of rebuild Portland-Smiths Falls, versus 150kms of raw unimproved rebuild (Perth to Havelock) plus 150ish kms of simpler rebuild (West of Havelock). That differential may be closer in cost than we think. Run time to Ottawa would be equivalent with a faster run directly to Montreal. More trains run per day, I recognize, but ridership would be higher on the Montreal-Toronto leg.

I think you are underestimating the cost of a greenfield route between Portalnd and Kingston. The region is flooded with lakes and finding an affordable route would be challenging and would likely be filled with compromises.

(I'm still confused about HFR's best time Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. If only one route is used, Toronto-Ottawa 3:15 + dwell in Ottawa + 1:33 Ottawa-Montreal is more than 4:45 - it approaches the current 5:04)

My guess is that they plan to have Phase 1B of the Elevated Passenger Platforms plan, which will have wider platforms with escalators running in both directions (important since many passengers are carrying luggage). This will help speed up boarding and alighting process.

Are we discussing a plan to achieve HFR, and live with it until economics favour a HSR quality new build....or are we picking the future route for that new build and using it in the interim for HFR?

If I had to guess, it would be the former. When we get to the point where separate Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto are not only feasible, but necessary to handle the passenger demand, an upgraded Havelock Sub (combined with an upgraded Winchester Sub) would make an excellent long distance, shared, dedicated freight ROW that could be given to CN and CP as part of a deal to obtain the CN's Kingston Sub and the eastern part of CP's Belleville Sub to provide a better route from Ottawa to the Kingston Sub (though it would bypass Kingston, so reginal service would still be needed).

Some might say, if that is the plan, why not just do that now and there are several good arguments for a 2 staged approach:
  1. Initial investment would be much higher, which is a tough sell without proven demand,
  2. Operational costs would be higher initially, while demand is too low to support split triangle HFR,
  3. It is easier to sell an existing, proven ROW to CN and CP than a theoretical plan, and
  4. There is flexibility to change the plan if a better option becomes available.
I can't see the Havelock route as the best candidate to achieve even Class 7. If that's what you are proposing, and if the Kingston route is not critical to the business case, then I would still argue that it must be better to put VIA on the CP line today, and force CP onto CN. (putting freight on the Havelock would be utterly uneconomic and non-operable).

Why do you say that? It is slightly shorter than the Belleville Sub and freight operators aren't concerned about high speed. Most of the freight is travelling straight through Montreal an points further east. Deliveries along the lakeshore could be done via either the Belleville Sub or overnight on the Kingston Sub.

That would be more expensive than the base HFR plan, because CP's freight line has much higher market value than the Havelock line. But much less would be needed to upgrade the CP line to the same performance spec as VIA can buy initially on the Havelock route, with future use of the line for HSR assured. More money now, perhaps, but the net present value might be as good or better.

Any plan that assumes freight would be completely removed from one of the ROWs 24/7 would be a non-starter. A Havelock sub that has been upgraded to HFR standards would be significantly more valuable than it is today, especially if the freight railways retain access overnight to the passenger ROWs for local trains.

I'm guessing that west of Smiths Falls, the Class 7 upgrade you envision is further away than we think. Assume HFR initially does a raw rebuild Havelock to Perth, Class 6 at best. Assume that with all possible banking, VIA achieves its projected trip timing. At that point, upgrading Smiths Falls - Ottawa-Montreal from 100 mph to 125 mph is probably less money overall than upgrading the Havelock from Class 6 to anything higher. Same gain in time, likely similar ridership boost. So that project would have a better business case than improving the line west of Perth.

I do tend to agree that it likely isn't feasible for the Havelock Sub will be upgraded beyond class 6. When we eventually go to HSR, an alternate route will be needed. I do think the HFR plan has significant value and is our best option of getting funding today.

VIA's business case is likely the least possible cost alternative to generate a positive return.

I agree. After decades of the government rejecting grand, filed of dreams HSR projects, I believe this is what it has come to. The alternative is to led VIA die a death of a thousand paper cuts.

It just doesn't have much up side beyond that. I'm looking for more up side, and I think the alternatives may not prove more expensive particularly over the longer term. That may be irrelevant for the initial investors, but it's better public policy.

HFR shows that there is demand for passenger rail in Canada. While "the alternatives may not prove more expensive particularly over the longer term," they will cost more in the short term (in either capital or operational costs, or both), which is key. Getting public or private investors to bet on a dark horse is not easy.
 

micheal_can

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I wonder, would building an elevated line along the median of the 401 work? Maybe even a wye for the 416 as well. Then you have a visible, dedicated HSR ROW to showcase how fast it is, and it hits enough major points. It is also fairly straight.
 

Urban Sky

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I wonder, would building an elevated line along the median of the 401 work? Maybe even a wye for the 416 as well. Then you have a visible, dedicated HSR ROW to showcase how fast it is, and it hits enough major points. It is also fairly straight.
Building railway lines into a Highway median looks like a smart idea - until you realize that neither their horizontal nor vertical alignments make Highway medians particularly suitable for such a use:

Intercity Rail

The reasons favoring highway alignments intercity rail in the US are somewhat different. Tellingly, HSR in Europe is frequently twinned with motorways. It is not about integration with cars, since those alignments are rarely if ever meant to have major stops in their middle. Instead, it’s about picking a pre-impacted alignment, where there are fewer property takings and fewer NIMBYs. This logic is sound, but I often see Americans take it to extremes when discussing HSR.

The first problem is that roads are almost never as straight as HSR needs to be. The design standards I have seen after briefly Googling give the radius of a motorway capable of about 120 km/h as, at a minimum, 500-700 meters. With these curves, trains, too, are capable of achieving about 120 km/h – less at 500 meters without tilting, more at 700 meters with tilting. The most recent high-speed lines are built with a minimum curve radius of 7 km; about the absolute minimum that can be done, with design compromises and tilting trains, is 4 km. This implies that the trains have to deviate from the motorway alignment whenever it curves. In flat regions the road curves are much gentler than the minimum, but still too sharp for full-speed running. Both Florida HSR and Xpress West noted that the trains would have to slow down whenever the Interstate curved, because the need to run in the median would prevent them from curving gently enough to maintain full speed.

Of note, the European examples of HSR running in motorway alignments have it running alongside the roads, not in the medians. I invite the reader to spend a few minutes following French LGVs on Google Maps and seeing this. This is because there invariably have to be small deviations from the road, which in a rural area are trivial when one runs next to the road but require viaducts when one runs between the road’s two carriages.


Have a look at Brightline’s future greenfield alignment between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport and you will also see that it follows along the Southern edge of Highway 528 rather than its median...
 
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roger1818

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I wonder, would building an elevated line along the median of the 401 work? Maybe even a wye for the 416 as well. Then you have a visible, dedicated HSR ROW to showcase how fast it is, and it hits enough major points. It is also fairly straight.

What would be the advantage of doing this? In addition to the excellent reply by @Urban Sky, having a wye at the 416 doesn't make any sense. The 416 was built as the cheapest way of connecting Ottawa to the 401 and has many compromises which makes it a toss up when driving as to which is the better route (the shorter but lower speed Hwy 7 or the longer but higher speed 416 to 401). A wye there wouldn't be any better than the existing route VIA uses.
 

micheal_can

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What would be the advantage of doing this? In addition to the excellent reply by @Urban Sky, having a wye at the 416 doesn't make any sense. The 416 was built as the cheapest way of connecting Ottawa to the 401 and has many compromises which makes it a toss up when driving as to which is the better route (the shorter but lower speed Hwy 7 or the longer but higher speed 416 to 401). A wye there wouldn't be any better than the existing route VIA uses.

I am thinking of how a HSR could connect Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. The problem is that there is no straight and flat route that goes to all of them in 1 line. That is why my suggestion is a compromise, but a reasonable one. Maybe adding a length down 417 to Montreal might make it work better.
 

Urban Sky

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I am thinking of how a HSR could connect Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. The problem is that there is no straight and flat route that goes to all of them in 1 line. That is why my suggestion is a compromise, but a reasonable one. Maybe adding a length down 417 to Montreal might make it work better.
Inserting a ROW for a design speed of 300 km/h into a narrow (maybe 20 meter wide) strip of a ROW with a design speed of 120 km/h is not a reasonable suggestion...

@roger1818, please quote my messages when referring to them towards Micheal...
 

crs1026

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So you feel it is important for VIA to compromise operational costs in the long run to save on initial capital costs?

I think you have what I said backwards, but....If the three-sided option can't run in the black, it's a non-starter in current environment.

What I feel is, it's incumbent for Ottawa to put more money on the table, now, than the basic VIA HFR can justify within the CIB-bound constraints, in the interest of not confining HFR to the low-potential long term scenario. HFR should not become a stranded asset, which it will become if the next iteration requires a new route and another round of construction.

Ottawa doesn't feel that way, so my opinion won't buy a small coffee, but that doesn't mean Ottawa is taking the most far-sighted path through this.

I think you are underestimating the cost of a greenfield route between Portalnd and Kingston. The region is flooded with lakes and finding an affordable route would be challenging and would likely be filled with compromises.

I accept this point may be valid - but it cuts both ways. If 30 miles of new line is prohibitive, then so is any upgrading of the Havelock line, and so is any new HSR routing connecting the same points. It's 90 miles from Glen Tay to Havelock.... the amount of rock that will need to be blasted and moved just to ease curves would be of similar magnitude.

While I'm a little more optimistic about the base case for Havelock, having digested the curvature thing a little more, that line is wound around two many rock outcrops and alongside (or through) too many marshes. To get greater speed/time savings, one would have to straighten a fair bit of it. There is little option to straighten much of it, and certainly not at low cost.

The Top map is a bit friendlier south of Portland, although I agree it's no easy feat.

The earlier HSR studies did seem to express a preference for the CP route. It could be expropriated today, in close to move-in condition suitable for base HFR, for a price that's likely within the range of what VIA will pay to rehab the Havelock line. So even if we decide Kingston is not to be served, my pay-me-now, pay-me-later challenge to Havelock being "less costly" remains. Any incremental cost is effectively "buying futures" in HSR.

My guess is that they plan to have Phase 1B of the Elevated Passenger Platforms plan, which will have wider platforms with escalators running in both directions (important since many passengers are carrying luggage). This will help speed up boarding and alighting process.

Even so, the time to debark arriving Ottawa passengers and then board departing Toronto/Montreal passengers will not be insignificant. Is any in-car cleaning and grooming required? Will outgoing passengers be held in the main concourse until the arriving passengers have left the platform?

I'm ena minimum 10 minute dwell in Ottawa, with 15 not unrealistic.

When we get to the point where separate Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto are not only feasible, but necessary to handle the passenger demand, an upgraded Havelock Sub (combined with an upgraded Winchester Sub) would make an excellent long distance, shared, dedicated freight ROW that could be given to CN and CP as part of a deal to obtain the CN's Kingston Sub and the eastern part of CP's Belleville Sub to provide a better route from Ottawa to the Kingston Sub (though it would bypass Kingston, so reginal service would still be needed).

I can't imagine any scenario where the Havelock returns to being a freight line. Grades, for one thing - VIA will not need to level the line, but the slack action would destroy today's 14,000 foot land barges. And, as above, the curves will not have been smoothed. Even VIA's use of the line is predicated on banking, which freight can't tolerate. I'm also not sure that VIA will rehab to the same weight capacities as freight would demand.

Any plan that assumes freight would be completely removed from one of the ROWs 24/7 would be a non-starter. A Havelock sub that has been upgraded to HFR standards would be significantly more valuable than it is today, especially if the freight railways retain access overnight to the passenger ROWs for local trains.

I agree that any scenario which constrains the freight throughput or velocity between the end points is unacceptable. It's a question of how much capacity there is today, and how long before it fills up, and who then pays to expand it. I'm not sure that the railways would object to a plan that monetizes some of their excess capacity today (beyond a prudent margin for growth). The case study for this is the west side of Montreal - regardless of scenario, all today's freight will fit on the existing trackage with enough room for all the passenger VIA intends to run, plus AMT.....provided we don't think of it as two separate two-track railways.

I am not arguing for bringing all the investment needed for HSR forward to today. That clearly won't sell. I am arguing for a solution that might run $1B-$2B more than HFR, that would offer more options and clear a bit more of the HSR path. The business case would not be that much less favourable.

- Paul
 
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jamincan

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Even so, the time to debark arriving Ottawa passengers and then board departing Toronto/Montreal passengers will not be insignificant. Is any in-car cleaning and grooming required? Will outgoing passengers be held in the main concourse until the arriving passengers have left the platform?

I'm ena minimum 10 minute dwell in Ottawa, with 15 not unrealistic.

VIA is upgrading the platforms at the Ottawa station to allow level boarding and more space. I believe the intent is to allow quicker boarding, but I don't know that for sure.
 

Bordercollie

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A lot of the stations like port Hope and Cobourg sit between the CN and CP lines. There could be some added capacity there if you could utilize the CP tracks with sidings at the station. But it would be a patchwork type of solution and wouldn't really solve the problem.
 

robmausser

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A lot of the stations like port Hope and Cobourg sit between the CN and CP lines. There could be some added capacity there if you could utilize the CP tracks with sidings at the station. But it would be a patchwork type of solution and wouldn't really solve the problem.

My suggestion years ago was for VIA to create some switchover tracks where the CN/CP lines meet at various points from Toronto to Kingston.

Then, if there was a freight delay on the CN line, the train could negotiate to use the CP line to bypass the stalled or slow freight train.

However it would require a lot of coordination and probably some kind of advanced center to coordinate things.

CP is also hesitant to allow VIA and other passenger service on their lines, but maybe they would be more forgiving if it was just seen as a backup to the CN service.
 

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